On Saturday May 6, 2017, the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, the Anne Arundel Community College Astronomy Club, the Planetary Science Division of the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and the Universities Space Research Association have teamed up to offer a day of public programs focusing on our solar system. The events will include a Planet Walk on the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail and illustrated evening presentations at Anne Arundel Community College, followed by a Stargazing Party at the AACC Observatory. Attendance and parking are free for all events.

The events will kick off at 10:00 am with a Planet Walk along a 4.7-mile segment of the B&A Trail between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This segment of the Trail features two sculptures and ten planet stations representing the Sun and the planets of the Solar System, with a sculptural stainless steel marker spaced at each planet’s proportional distance from the Sun. Between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm, planetary scientists and astronomers from NASA/Goddard, area colleges and universities and local astronomy clubs will be at each of the planet stations to provide information and activities concerning that planet as well as to answer questions.

Participants can walk or bicycle the 4.7-mile course between the Sun Sculpture, located just south of Aquahart Road behind Harundale Plaza in Glen Burnie and the Pluto sculpture, located just north of the Earleigh Heights Road Ranger Station in Severna Park. Ample parking is located adjacent to the beginning of the Planet Walk in Glen Burnie. It is recommended that participants start at the Sun Station. This event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain. For participants seeking a shorter or less time-consuming experience, the six planets between the Sun and Saturn can be visited by traveling in the first 1 1/4 miles of the Planet Walk between Harundale Plaza and Marley Station Mall.

Special evening events are also scheduled at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus. At 7:00 pm and 8:15 pm, an illustrated program will be presented on NASA’s Cassini Flagship Mission to Saturn in Room 110 of the Dragun Science Building.  Dr. Carrie Anderson, a Research Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, will discuss some of the wealth of information the Cassini Mission has gleaned about Saturn and it’s atmosphere, as well as data on the physical, chemical and dynamical conditions of Saturn’s moons and rings.  The Cassini Mission entered Saturn’s orbit in 2004 and will be concluding it’s data gathering later this year. Following each presentation, there will be a question and answer session.

Drawings for the daytime Planet Walk raffle will be held following the 7:00 program.  Raffle entries are available to all Planet Walk participants who complete the 4.7-mile planetary journey. Also at 7:00 and 8:15, a film about the under-development James Webb Space Telescope will be shown.  As successor to the Hubble, the Webb’s scheduled 2018 launch will allow scientists to gain much greater information about how galaxies form and the nature of black holes.

Finally, beginning at 8:30 pm, the AACC Astronomy Club will host a Stargazing Party at the College Observatory. The Observatory is located outside Parking Lot B on the Arnold campus. Participants will have the opportunity to use the Observatory’s telescopes with the assistance of Astronomy Club members or may also bring their own telescopes. The Stargazing Party will be cancelled in the event that overcast conditions or inclement weather obscure the heavens.

The activities of May 6 will give participants a chance to gain greater insight into the makeup of our solar system as well as to learn about some ongoing research projects.  Additional information about these events is also available on Facebook or http://www.friendsofaatrails.org.

Distance Chart

Sun to Pluto Distance: 3,670,000,000 miles
Length of Planet Walk: 4.7 miles
Scale: 1 Planet Walk mile represents 781,000,000 miles

distance-chart-planet-walk

About Planet Walk

One of the unique features of the B&A Trail is the inclusion of a Planet Walk stretching between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This 4.7 mile segment of the trail includes monuments to the Sun and each of the planets of our solar system from Mercury to Pluto, each located at its proportional distance from the Sun. On the B&A Planet Walk, each actual mile represents a distance of 781,000,000 miles. Walking or bicycling the Planet Walk, it is easy to grasp the relative proximity of the planets, with distances between them measured in hundredths of a mile for Earth’s closest neighbors, while in the outer solar system, the distances between planets stretch to nearly 1.3 miles.

The Planet Walk was the vision of Stan Lebar, the first president of the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails. Stan worked in the aerospace industry and led the design team which produced the miniature TV camera which accompanied America’s astronauts on their first lunar landing mission.

The Planet Walk starts just south of Aquahart Road in Glen Burnie, MD at the appropriately-named Lebar Plaza. There a twenty-six foot high sculpture representing the Sun was erected in 2004. Judy Sutton Moore of Silver Spring, MD was the sculptor for this and the other sculptures and monuments of the Planet Walk. Smaller intermediate monuments mark the planet locations, each engraved with that planet’s distance from the Sun. The final sculpture, representing Pluto and the lesser planets, is located behind a small plaza located just north of Earleigh Heights Road in Severna Park.

Each Spring, a day is set aside to provide the public with more detailed information about our solar system. Planetary scientists and astronomers staff tables at each planet location, answering questions as well as dispensing literature about each planet and conducting activities. In the evening, a related program is presented at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus, followed by a public viewing at the AACC Observatory. Details about this event are posted each spring on this website.